Diving with Manta Rays on Lembongan Island, Indonesia

Of all the footage I captured while filming Global Fusion Yoga in Indonesia, my favorite video hands-down was taken while diving with manta rays off the islands surrounding Bali. Growing up in Florida, I’ve been scuba diving since the age of 10, but swimming with these giant creatures has definitely been the highlight of my illustrious diving career. The stunning location of the dive site made the experience just that much cooler.

Lembongan Island is only a smooth thirty-minute boat ride from the touristy southern tip of Bali, but it feels miles away. Once the boat noses into the sandy bay, you have to hop off into shallow water, dig your flip flops out of the crate you put them in at departure, and collect your bag from the boat roof to walk off down the beach.

There’s a short strip of beachy restaurants and snack shops along the bay, but other than that, there isn’t much of a social epicenter. So my friend and I decided to rent moto scooters to explore the other beaches ringing the island. After covering the island in about two hours, we found ourselves overlooking a shallow bay used for seaweed farming, the farmers sloshing through ankle-deep water to collect giant baskets of seaweed and dump them in canoes.

On the other side of the bay lies Ceningan Island; the only way to get there from Lembongan is to cross a rickety suspension bridge, which is primarily for pedestrians and definitely accommodates only one daring moto driver at a time. We couldn’t just leave the motos to fend for themselves, so taking them across was our sole option. With only six inches to spare between the suspending wires and handlebars, wavering on the moto is best avoided, otherwise you might fly over the edge and destroy a perfectly good seaweed harvest. Ignoring the “klink-klink-klink” of the loose wooden boards, I focused intently on the bridge pillars on the opposite side and keeping a steady speed; I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe the entire time, but I made it across without incident!

Aside from losing the feeling in your arms due to driving over rocky roads very much unfit for motos, the main attraction on Ceningan is the giant cliff jump. I didn’t take the leap myself, allowing my friend to test it out for me instead, but I’m pretty sure that makes me brave by association, so I felt accomplished regardless.

From this southern tip of Ceningan, we could see the largely uninhabited island of Nusa Penida, which harbors the majority of the dive sites in the area and lies at the meeting point between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Since the Pacific is at a slightly higher elevation than the Indian Ocean, this creates a “waterfall” effect where the nutrient-rich cold Pacific waters flow down into the warm Indian Ocean, resulting in healthy underwater habitats exploding with life. The marine life I was particularly interested in seeing was the manta ray.

The next morning, we took a small open-air dive boat to a deep cove off Nusa Penida, puttering around and waiting to spot the manta rays’ wings just barely breaking through the surface before we flipped overboard to follow them down. The water is a clear royal blue, filled with mantas making large circles around the steep cliff faces to feed with open mouths, capturing tiny plankton in their fluttering gills. Sitting forty feet down on the ocean floor, with only the gentle current to rock you back and forth as it crashes against the cliffs overhead, is the perfect viewpoint to watch the rays soaring and arcing gracefully like acrobats as they go about their business. Needless to say, this was the coolest footage I captured for the intro’s to my Global Fusion Yoga videos, which you can see in Episode 2. Better yet, travel to Lembongan Island and go diving off Nusa Penida to see them for yourself! Just beware the rickety bridge.

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